Spain's ex-PM mulled 'eliminating' ETA leaders in France

7th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's former prime minister Felipe Gonzalez planned, before the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, to "eliminate the entire leadership" of ETA gathered in southern France, according to an interview published Sunday.

"I had one opportunity in my life to give the order to eliminate the entire leadership of ETA" at a time when the armed Basque separatist group "wanted to attack the Olympic Games," Gonzalez told the newspaper El Pais.

It was "perhaps in 1989 or 1990," he said.

"Our men had discovered ... the place and the date of a meeting of the leadership of ETA in the south of France," said Gonzalez, 68, who was Socialist prime minister from 1982 to 1996.

"There was no possibility to stop them" because it was "outside our territory" and at the time it was "very unlikely" that France would act, he added.

Since that time, cooperation between Paris and Madrid against ETA has grown considerably, and in recent years a large number of ETA leaders have been arrested in France.

"I don't need to tell you what the implications would have been if I had acted on French territory.... The decision had to be 'yes or no'.., and I said 'no'."

"I still don't know I made the right decision," he said.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

Its announcement in September of a truce has been met with scepticism from the Spanish government because it has broken such ceasefires without warning in the past.

© 2010 AFP

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